Mid Term Reflection: Intermedia Performance

Last week in Professor Norah Zuniga-Shaw’s Intermedia Performance class I said – “I’ve never considered that before right now. Actually I’ve never considered a lot that we do in this course until now.” An off-the-cuff remark , I don’t remember exactly what “that” was, but it pretty much sums up every class thus far.

Brave New World

I’ve noticed an exhilarating and intimidating sense of Beginner-ness in Intermedia.Class is located in MOLA, or the Motion Lab, the most souped up BlackBox I’ve ever seen. Lab is structured as open play- here are tools, here’s your team, here’s a task, here’s the on-button, GO.  For someone who can barely turn on the television (if there is more than one remote I don’t bother) it’s a Brave New World. It’s exciting.  I take baby steps using Isadora software, operating the lightboard, sending images to different projectors- not with confidence yet – but maybe by end of the semester.

(I consider my discomfort with many forms of tech and flashback to my only technology classes in high school: lovely septuagenarian Sr. Christina (bless her) teaching us the long-cuts for copy and paste in Microsoft Word, a program which we had all already been using for years. “Now girls don’t only use the shortcuts, use the buttons in the menu bar, so you know how to do it the real way.” Cue plenty of rude eyerolls from students, and not much learning.)

I’m identifying resistance/ fear around this world I don’t know! So I’m diving in to learning – attacking fear with information. If only the whole world would do that too.

While we generate studies we are experimenting with how multiple tools (live feed video, recorded projection, spatial orientation of projectors, physical objects, spatial arrangement of performer and audience, light and shadow, and live and recorded sounds) create atmosphere, affect, and offer possibilities for meaning. For example in a lab for our first study, a digital portrait, Tara Burns, Emily Craver, and I explored shadow, live video feeds, multiple projection surfaces and close proximity between audience and performer.

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Tara Burns in our Digital Portrait Study

As we venture into further inquiry and practical exploration around the concept of virtuality, the reality of virtual space and corporeal objects, the reality of the physical body and the reality of a live feed video of that same body, the notions of what is and isn’t “real” become blurred more easily than I imagined.

Tech vs.  Content

Right now we’re playing with technological tools, and each study reveals ways in which these tools allow for unique meaning making. In Digital Performance: A History o f New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation Steve Dixon illustrates the tension between technology and content.  Rather than locating artistic value and primary analysis within technology itself, ie. “the Web represents the greatest hypertext work, ” Dixon focuses on the “particularities of performance and performances in varied ways in order to create different types of content, drama, meanings, aesthetic impacts, physiological and psychological effects, audience performer relationships, and so on.”

I’ve noticed as we view multiple pieces that the implicit bias I came in with- against gratuitous technological use (tacky backdrops, tech for tech’s sake) -is still there, yet I even more deeply appreciate works that utilize technology as a necessary means to fully investigate concept/content – check out Alice Sheppard’s Kinetic Light and Nicole Canuso’s Pandaemonium. (I saw Pandaemonium at NYLA in 2017.)

Course Crossover

So far I’m enjoying frequent overlap between Intermedia and conversations in other courses.   For example in Intermedia we looked at Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker’s FASE analyzing from a gestalt perspective of interplay between elements, of editing and presentation.  Nearly simultaneously we visited the work in Daniel Roberts’ Music and Choreography class-  analyzing movement visualizations of phasing in the minimalist score.  Not long after we mentioned De Keersmaeker’s formal structures in conversations of transatlantic trends in postmodern dance in Dr. Hannah Kosstrin’s Postmodernism class…

Personal Practice

Every so often Norah directs us to leave the dark theater and venture outside for a silent 10 minutes of “notice what you notice” walking– returning refreshed for the day’s task. I’ve found that taking a similar noticing walk first thing can foster a more focused day – likewise it’s a good “reset” in the middle.

Dixon, Steve. 2007. Digital Performance: A History o f New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation. Cambridge: MIT Press.